Cardinals vs. Rams Odds, Predictions, Picks, Spread: How To Bet This Week 4 NFC West Showdown
Getty Images. Pictured: Kyler Murray (left) and Matthew Stafford.
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The Los Angeles Rams are fresh off their biggest win of the season, a 34-24 triumph over the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated.
Now, Los Angeles sits at 3-0 and hosts the Arizona Cardinals in an NFC West divisional matchup, with the winner set to sit in sole possession of first place.
While the Rams were dominant in last week’s win over the Buccaneers, the Cardinals have been skating on thin ice, barely escaping with wins over the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars the past two weeks.
Nevertheless, the Cardinals took some sharp money as oddsmakers originally opened the Rams as seven-point favorites with a total of 54 before the market pushed this spread to Rams -4.5.
Which one of these teams will move to 4-0? Are we trusting the sharp money or are we fading it?
Let’s analyze both sides and find out.
Questions Surround Cardinals Defense
The Cardinals have won by the skin of their teeth the last two weeks. They beat the Vikings thanks to a missed field goal attempt as time expired, and they had to come back from a 19-10 third-quarter deficit to defeat the Jaguars on the road after a pick-six, a three-and-out and back-to-back fumbles from the Jacksonville offense.
Nevertheless, this Kyler Murray-led Cardinals offense is averaging a league-leading 34.3 points per game, ranking eighth in EPA/play and ninth in Success Rate (48.8%). It’s worth noting that the Cardinals were fortunate to play a Titans defense that ranks 26th in EPA/play, the Vikings (20th) and Jaguars (29th) to start their season.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they come into this matchup banged up, with issues on the offensive line with left guard Justin Pugh, right guard Justin Murray and right tackle Kelvin Beachum (ribs) all missing practice this week. Murray and Pugh will be game-time decisions, so be sure to monitor their status on Sunday.
This uncertainty isn’t ideal for a team playing its second straight road game against a defensive line that is led by Aaron Donald and ranks ninth in ESPN’s pass rush win rate (47%).
Meanwhile, DeAndre Hopkins has been dealing with a rib injury and while he should play on Sunday, he only caught three passes for 21 yards last week against Jacksonville and will line up against Jalen Ramsey in Week 4.
The Cardinals defense is concerning, despite ranking sixth in Defensive Efficiency.
Looking at its schedule, Arizona played a Titans team learning a new system under offensive coordinator Todd Downing, who ran a grand total of five play-action passes, which were a staple in Tennessee’s success under former OC Arthur Smith.
The Cardinals followed that up by getting carved up by the Vikings for 33 points with a 51% success rate on offense, a 54% passing success rate and a 58% passing success rate on early downs. Even Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars pushed this Cardinals defense to the limit in just his second start.
It’s clear, we’re looking at an Arizona defense that is far worse than it ranks.
New Era For Rams With Stafford Under Center
Replacing Jared Goff with Matthew Stafford has drastically altered the ceiling for the Rams.
There’s very little hope for opposing defenses to stop an attack with Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and DeSean Jackson that ranks first in EPA/play and third in points per game (31.7).
Even with a struggling run game that is just 23rd in EPA/play, this is an offense that can cause problems for anyone, just as they did for the Bucs. I expect that to continue here.
As I’ve mentioned above, the Vikings had their way with the Cardinals defense in Week 2. Something noteworthy is that Kirk Cousins had a perfect passer rating on play-action passes, which Stafford has excelled at this season. Overall, when it comes to this offense I see the Rams having the ability to put up a big number.
Defensively, the Rams could have an advantage with a defensive line — starring Donald — that ranks fifth in pass rush win rate. Los Angeles will be facing a Cardinals offensive line that is banged up.
The Rams did give up 6.3 yards per play and 7.1 yards per pass against the Bucs, so the Cardinals should be able to move the ball well.
Los Angeles has proven it can bend and not break defensively, and with this offense, that may be more than enough to get the job done.
Since Sean McVay took over as head coach in 2017, the Rams are 8-0 straight-up against the Cardinals and 7-1 against the spread, winning by an average margin of 20 points.
Of course, the past doesn’t totally determine the result of this matchup, especially since Murray has only been on the team since 2019, but it says a lot about how the Rams have had their number over the years.
This Cardinals defense hasn’t proven it can stop even lower-tier teams like the Jaguars, so the Rams are a much tougher task. With the injuries on the offensive line for the Cardinals, I believe Los Angeles has a huge advantage on the defensive line.
While many people see this as a let down spot for the Rams who are coming off a big win against the Buccaneers, I’m not seeing it. From my view, the public pushing this number down from -6 to -4.5 has created value on the 3-0 Rams, who appear to be heading toward being one of the best teams in the league. I’ll back Los Angeles here.
Pick: Rams -4